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Poster: Fact_Checker Date: Jul 30, 2009 6:06pm
Forum: feature_films Subject: Re: Scarlet Pimpernel copyright (Re: GATT Filings)

The question posed here is whether copyright eligibility is dependent upon the nationality of the director. I recognize that under CURRENT U.K. law, there could be no GATT recognition if NONE of the following were British citizens or domiciliaries: "(a) the principal director,
(b) the author of the screenplay,
(c) the author of the dialogue, [and]
(d) the composer of music specially created for and used in the film".

The question here is whether the changes in the U.K. law apply retroactively to a 1934 film. A change in U.K. law in 1956 affected the status of films already under copyright, and changes introduced 1988/1995 had effects on duration of copyrights already in effect. Now, whether a 1934 copyright came to have the specific protections of the 1995 U.K. law, that I don't know.

From the limited adjustments in U.K. copyright law that I've seen, the increases in copyright term in the U.K. were granted to older works -- just as in the United States, changes in U.S. law have extended duration of copyright on "subsisting works".

At present, U.K. law says that a copyright "expires at the end of the period of 70 years from the end of the calendar year in which the death occurs of the last to die of the following persons --
(a) the principal director,
(b) the author of the screenplay,
(c) the author of the dialogue, or
(d) the composer of music specially created for and used in the film".

Let's suppose the U.K. legislators decided that they would grant this broader protection on previously-copyrighted works. As the legislators may have seen it, they were merely extending copyright on most of these works. (In most cases, computing copyright expiration based on the last-to-die of the longer list of creators would amount to an extension of the expiration date of copyright, since mathematically you can expect one of the non-directors to live until a later year than the director (in that there are more non-directors).)

An unintended by-product of such an act by the legislators would be that a work on which a non-Brit was the author would now have some Brits among the multiple persons considered to be authors. Result: U.S. recognition of copyright under GATT.

Backing away from the supposing, the question to be asked is whether what is outlined above is actually what came into being. Lacking access to the earlier U.K. laws (although I believe I can find copies), I don't have an answer as of the time that I'm writing this. (If someone else reading this does have access, let him step in with the answers.)

Some piecemeal info:

In U.K. 1995 legislation is a section "Extended and revived copyright" and provisions for "(e) published films and films falling within section 13(3)(a) of the 1956 Act (films registered under former enactments relating to registration of films)." The latter are to "subsist until the date on which it would have expired under the 1956 Act" -- yet works with "extended copyrights" are in a class which "subsists by virtue of the new provisions after the date on which it would have expired under the 1988 provisions".

As has been the case in the past, I found some relevant quotations from the applicable laws at copyrightdata. One page assembles passages from recent U.K. law that addresses the extended copyrights, revived copyrights, and the granting to pre-1956 films the provisions of the 1956 changes:

http://chart.copyrightdata.com/UK_law.html

I see a pattern of newer law applying to older works, but I see nothing on the specific matter of whether the definition of "author" of a 1934 film was retroactively broadened to include creators other than the director. (By saying that I see nothing, I mean that I can't tell whether persons other than the director of "The Scarlet Pimpernel" are to now being considered the author or whether it's definitely the case that other persons are absolutely not authors insofar as U.K. law is presently concerned.)

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Poster: Administrator, Curator, or StaffVideo-Cellar Date: Jul 30, 2009 8:32pm
Forum: feature_films Subject: Re: Scarlet Pimpernel copyright (Re: GATT Filings)

The 1956 UK copyright Act is available online at http://www.opsi.gov.uk/acts/acts1956/pdf/ukpga_19560074_en.pdf.

The copyright term for motion pictures under 1956 act was to the end of 50 years from publication or registration. This term was originally duplicated in the 1988 Act and was changed to the multiple authors calculation in the 1995 legislation.

1911 Act protected films a class of dramatic work were the director of a film was the author of the film as a dramatic work. This law was still in effect until July 1957.

So, under the 1956 Act, Scarlet Pimpernel's copyright would have expired at the end of 1984 as it was registered under the Films Act. The provision of the 1995 legislation for "(e) published films and films falling within section 13(3)(a) of the 1956 Act (films registered under former enactments relating to registration of films)" to "subsist until the date on which it would have expired under the 1956 Act" might suggest that the copyright in the work was not revived by the 1995 Act. Thus, it would have been PD in its source country at GATT??

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Poster: Fact_Checker Date: Aug 4, 2009 6:43am
Forum: feature_films Subject: Re: Scarlet Pimpernel copyright (Re: GATT Filings)

Thanks Video-Cellar. The 1956 UK law text looks very conclusive. As you indicate, under this set of rules, a 1934 movie went into the public domain in the UK in 1984, and thus when GATT went into effect (passed by U.S. Congress in 1994) would already be beyond eligibility, based on the rule that any work that had gone into the public domain in the source country for having exhausted the time limits is not eligibility for a new copyright in the U.S.

The U.K. broadened copyrights in 1988, but that was after 1984, thus seemingly not applicable to a 1934 movie. The only thing I can see being of effect here is yet some other change in the U.K. dated 1957 to 1984, but I'm aware of no major changes to U.K. copyright law during those years.

Once again, it was great to have Video-Cellar provide the link and let all of us reading here see what the U.K. legislature enacted in their own words.

Question: does anyone know of any source for decades-old copyright law texts for France, Italy, Germany, Sweden and the other countries that made movies which appealed to Americans? Better still: decades-old copyright law texts in English translations? The WIPO web site is a great resource for the current laws (in English translations, no less), but this "Scarlet Pimpernel" thread has proven the value of the historic law texts.